One never plans on getting a divorce when they first embark on their marriage, but in some cases, this ending is unavoidable. To make the divorce process a little bit easier and help you navigate this complex landscape, you should consider getting an experienced divorce lawyer on board to help you. Although before you make any decisions, there are a few key aspects you should consider before choosing a divorce lawyer in South Africa.
Before choosing a divorce lawyer, you should consider the complexities of your situation, the lawyers’ experience and attitude towards your case, and who will be facilitating it. It would help if you also thought about the costs involved, the lawyers’ availability, and their location.
There are so many things to think about when you are in the process of getting a divorce, but one of the most critical aspects is choosing the right divorce lawyer for you and your situation. Regarding divorce lawyers, there is not a one size fits all option, and attitudes, skill sets, and availability vary; thus, some are better suited to certain situations than others. For this reason, you should consider the following aspects before choosing a divorce lawyer.
5 Important Things To Consider Before Choosing A Divorce Lawyer
Every situation is different, so choosing a divorce lawyer best suited to your unique situation is optimal. To ensure this happens, consider the following aspects before making your decision.
1. The Complexities Surrounding Your Situation
Suppose you are going into divorce proceedings with few to no significant assets, no children, no retirement funds or shared accounts, and with a prenup in place. Your divorce should be much easier to finalise than if there are considerable assets, children, retirement funds, and no antenuptial agreements.
If you are sure that your divorce should be pretty straightforward, then there is no reason for you to employ a lawyer with extensive experience, as they are often on the costlier side. On the other hand, if your situation is not straightforward and will require comprehensive mitigation, then it would be best to employ the services of a divorce lawyer with a suitable amount of expertise.
2. How Experienced Is Your Chosen Divorce Lawyer?
Another aspect you should consider when choosing a divorce lawyer is their experience level. Overall it would help if you opted to select someone experienced in family law, especially divorce cases.
However, the level of experience will depend on your situation. If you are dealing with a complex or complicated situation, a divorce lawyer with in-depth experience is an excellent option. On the other hand, if your case is straightforward, you can opt for a lawyer that does not have the same level of experience but will still sensitively handle your case.
Another aspect to consider, which falls within experience, is how your divorce lawyer handles your situation. They should approach your unique situation with the right amount of care, compassion, and sensitivity while at the same time showing strength and even a bit of aggression at the right moments during the negotiations. Your chosen divorce lawyer should also have the right attitude to your case.
In many cases, especially with high-end divorces and ones that involve lots of money and assets, lawyers tend to approach the situation with too much aggression and a need to win at all costs. This go-to winning attitude might be what you are looking for, and in that case, great, but it could also be too much.
Instead, opt not to go for this approach if you wish to maintain any form of relationship with your ex-spouse, especially if there are children involved, as this will mean that you and your ex will remain in each other’s lives for a long time.
You also want to avoid landing up with a lawyer that can’t fight for what you want in your settlement or fights too hard and thus makes your situation more complicated than it needs to be. You can ask your lawyer a few questions to determine how they might handle your case, such as:
- How many divorce cases have they handled?
- How many mediated divorce cases have they handled?
- How many contested vs. how many uncontested divorces have they handled?
- How experienced are they in child contact and care cases, especially those involving custody and access?
3. Who Will Be Handling The Majority Of Your Case?
In most cases, your divorce attorney will delegate some of your casework to junior staff members, including paralegals, associates, and candidate attorneys. This type of delegation is a typical practice, especially for larger firms.
It would be a good idea to find out how comfortable you feel with the people in charge of your case. If you are not comfortable with this person, it might make the whole situation much harder for you. Divorce procedures often involve personal information, which you will need to be able to disseminate to the person handling your case.
You should ensure that you know who will handle your case and that you are being charged accordingly. Most law firms charge by the hour, but rates should differ according to the person’s experience. Before choosing a divorce lawyer, you could ask a few of the following questions:
- Who the lead lawyer on your case will be;
- Can you meet the person if you haven’t already met them;
- Do their hourly fees differ according to who is doing the work;
- Do they use assistants or paralegals for some of the more non-technical and administrative tasks;
It would help to consider the cost when choosing a divorce lawyer, but this shouldn’t be the deciding factor. It is very hard at the onset for any divorce lawyer to give you a final amount as to how much your divorce will cost, as there could be hiccups along the way, which can delay proceedings. For this reason, it is always good to ask about any rates involved, such as:
- Hourly rates;
- How you might get charged;
- If you will be charged according to the experience and skill level of those working on your case;
- Flat rates;
- Hidden costs, such as outside experts (e.g., social workers);
- Is there an upfront payment;
- How do they charge, monthly or when the divorce is finalised;
5. Communication And Location
Before choosing a divorce lawyer, you should ask them about their availability. You will need to consider whether you require them to be available by phone, email, text messaging, or face-to-face and ensure they can communicate with you the way you need them to.
This level of communication will tie in with their location. If you require face-to-face contact, your chosen divorce lawyer should reside near your location for easy access. If you do not need in-person meetings, then it will be fine for them to live further away.
At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we pride ourselves on always giving honest and pure advice, and we understand that every situation is unique. For this reason, we handle each case in a manner befitting that individual situation. Our team encompasses a range of skills and experience in all types of divorces, from uncontested to contested cases. We are available for in-person meetings and telephonic consultations, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.